Cloud Native Security Approach Comparisons

Cloud Native Security Approach Comparisons

Vinay Khanna, Ashwin Prabhu & Sriranga Seetharamaiah also contributed to this article. 

In the Cloud, security responsibilities are shared between the Cloud Service Provider (CSP) and Enterprise Security teams. To enable Security teams to provide compliance, visibility, and control across the application stack, CSPs and security vendors have added various innovative approaches across the different layers. In this blog we compare the approaches and provide a framework for Enterprises to think of these approaches.

Overview

Cloud Service Providers are launching new services at a breakneck pace to enable enterprise application developers to bring in new business value to the marketplace faster. For each of these services the CSPs are taking up more and more of the security responsibility while letting the enterprise security teams focus more on the application. To be able to provide visibility, security and enhance existing tools in such diverse and fast changing environments CSPs enable logs, APIs, Native agents and other technologies, that can be used by Enterprise security teams.

Comparison

There are many different approaches to security and each have varying tradeoffs in terms of the depth of visibility and security they provide, the ease of deployment, permissions required, the costs, and the scale they work at.

APIs and logs are the best approach to do get started with discovering your Cloud accounts and finding anomalous activity interesting to security teams in those accounts. It is easy to get access to data from various accounts using these mechanisms, without the security teams having to do much more than get cross account access to the numerous accounts in the organization. The approach provides great visibility but needs to be complemented with protection approaches.

Image and snapshot analysis are a good approach to get deeper data of the workloads both before the application starts and as they run. In this method the image/ snapshot of the disk of the running system can be analyzed to detect any anomalies, vulnerabilities, config incidents etc. Snapshots provide deep data of workloads but may not detect memory resident issues like fileless malware. Also, as we move to ephemeral workloads, analyzing snapshots periodically may have limited usage. The mechanism may not work for cloud services for which disk snapshots may not be possible to obtain. The approach provides deep data of snapshots but needs to be complemented with some protection approaches to be useful.

Native agents and scripts are a good approach to enable deeper visibility and controls by providing an easy way to enhance Cloud native agents like SSM on a machine. Based on the functionality agents can have high resource usage. Native agent support is limited by the CSP provided capabilities, like OS support/ features provided. In a lot of cases the native agents run commands that log the information needed, which implies we need to have the logging approach working in parallel.

DaemonSet and Sidecar containers is an approach to deploying agents easily in Container and serverless environments. Sidecar allow running one container per pod which provide deep data but the resource usage and the cost as a result are high, because multiple sidecars would run on a single server. Sidecars can work in Container Serverless models in which case DaemonSet containers do not work. As the functionality of a Sidecar and DaemonSet is like that of an agent, many of the agent limitations mentioned apply here too.

Agent approach provides the deepest visibility and best control of the environment in which an application runs, by running code coresident with the application. This approach is however harder because the security teams need to have deep discovery capabilities beforehand to be able to deploy these agents.  There is also friction in adding agents as it has to run on every machine and security teams do not have rights to run software on every machine, especially in the cloud. The resource usage and cost of a solution can be high depending on the use cases supported. Newer technologies like Extended Berkley Packet Filters (eBPF) enable reducing resource usage of agents to make them more palatable for broader usage.

Built-into-Image/ Build-into-code approach allows for the security being built into the application image deployed. This allows security functionality to be deployed without having to work on deploying an agent with each workload. This approach provides deep visibility of the application and works even for serverless workloads. Compiling in code adds immense friction by having to add code into the build process, and code libraries need to be available in every application language.

MVISION CNAPP

MVISION Cloud takes a Multi-pronged approach to securing applications and enable security teams to gain control of their Cloud environments.

  1. Security teams often lack visibility into their ephemeral Cloud infrastructures and MVISION Cloud provides a seamless way by using Cross-Account IAM access and then using API and Logs to provide visibility into Cloud environments.
  2. Using the same access MVISION Cloud can not only provide an Audit of the configuration of customer environment but also do image scans to identify vulnerabilities in the components of the workload.
  3. MVISION Cloud can then help identify risk against resources, so security teams can focus on securing the right resources. All of this without having to deploy an agent.
  4. Then using approaches like Sidecars, DaemonSet containers and agents MVISION CNAPP helps provide deep visibility and protect the applications against the most sophisticated attacks by providing File Integrity Monitoring (FIM), Application Allow Listing (AAL), Anti-Malware, run time Vulnerability analysis and performing hardening checks.
  5. Using the data from all the sources MVISION CNAPP provides a Risk score against incidents to help security teams prioritize incidents and focus on the biggest risks.

Conclusion

The various approaches to security have their own unique tradeoffs and no one approach can satisfy all the requirements for the various teams, for the diverse set of platforms they support.

At any point of time different cloud services will be at different levels of adoption maturity. Security teams need to take an incremental approach where they start off adopting solutions that are easy to insert and can provide the basic guardrail of security and visibility, at the start of the service adoption cycle. As applications on a service mature and more high value apps come online, an approach to security that provides deeper discovery and control will be necessary to complement the existing approaches.

No one approach will be able to satisfy all customer use cases and at any time there will be different sets of security solutions that will be active. We are headed to a world of even more diverse security approaches, that have to all work seamlessly to help secure the Enterprise.

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